Teoscar Hernandez’s slam highlights 7-homer barrage as Mariners keep rolling atop AL West

Teoscar Hernandez’s slam highlights 7-homer barrage as Mariners keep rolling atop AL West

When you’ve waited this long to return to the top, you don’t want the stay to be fleeting.

When you’ve worked this hard to reach this level, you don’t want satisfaction to lead to relaxation.

When it feels this damn good, you don’t want to do anything to make it stop.

A day after moving to the top of the American League West standings — the first time it’s happened after July 1 in almost 20 years to the day — the Mariners made sure Saturday that they didn’t relinquish their spot with one of their most decisive victories of the season against a team that’s been an annoying pest to put away.

The Mariners got an outstanding start from Logan Gilbert while the offense smashed seven homers, highlighted by Teoscar Hernandez’s grand slam in a seven-run third inning, to roll to a drama-free 15-2 dismantling of the Royals.

“We have not had easy games against the Royals,” manager Scott Servais said. “And today, we just put everything together.”

As the Mariners shook hands following a victory that improved their record to 73-56 and most of the crowd of 41,744 still in attendance stood applauding the effort, public address announcer Tom Hutyler directed the attention to the flags in center field that represent the AL West standings.

With Seattle moving a half-game above the Rangers, who played later in the evening, the Mariners flag was moved into the first-place spot due to the half-game lead. It drew a roar of approval. The Rangers would prevail over the Twins later Saturday evening to remain even with the Mariners atop the AL West standings. But being in first in any way matters.

“It’s unbelievable,” Julio Rodriguez said. “It’s something that these fans deserve. This whole organization, we’ve all been working. And just to see that and to see how the city’s embracing us and our success right now, the way they are supporting us, it’s pretty cool. I just hope that everybody keeps on showing up and keeps on bringing the energy because at the end of the day, we are all in this together.”

Satisfied? Getting to first place in the division wasn’t the goal. Finishing in first place in the AL West is the goal.

“The best thing we can do is just play good baseball and do what we’re doing right now and just stick with our process,” Gilbert said. “We’ve seen the results and we’re just trying to keep that going.”

The seven home runs equaled a franchise record for most in a game and set the club record for most homers hit in a game at T-Mobile Park. Of the four previous times the Mariners hit seven homers in a game, three came on the road and one was at the Kingdome.

“It’s never happened in this park?” Servais asked. “We talk about how this game can get contagious when you’re going good offensively and that’s what we’re seeing. Guys are not putting pressure on themselves. The really good sign for me is when you keep taking your walks. That’s when you’re not trying to do too much. That’s what you’re seeing us do on a regular basis.”

The 15 runs were the most scored all season and the most since a 16-13 win over the Padres on June 2, 2013.

Since July 1, the Mariners are 35-14 and averaging 5.65 runs per game with a .270/.351/.468 slash line with 75 homers.

“We’re not hot,” Rodriguez said, repeating something he said a few weeks ago. “I’m going to keep saying that. We are not hot. We are just playing the baseball that I know we were capable of.”

Facing Royals starter Jordan Lyles, the Mariners put up a touchdown in the third inning to break the game open.

Josh Rojas led off the inning with a fly ball down the right-field line that curled just inside the foul pole for a 1-0 lead.

Seven-homer games for the Mariners

Rojas finished the game with two hits and in his past 12 games, he’s batting .383 (18 for 47) with two doubles, three homers and 10 RBI.

Following the unselfish approach that Servais mentioned, Seattle loaded the bases on a double from J.P. Crawford and a pair of one-out walks from Eugenio Suarez and Cal Raleigh.

After fouling a 1-0 sinker from Lyles off the inside of his knee, Hernandez got essentially the same pitch and drove it into the visiting bullpen for his third career grand slam and his 20th homer of the season.

“It was obvious,” he said. “Pitchers do that. When you hit a foul ball off the body, they usually go back to it and I was ready for it.”

Seattle continued to pour it on with two outs. Dominic Canzone singled and Mike Ford sent a two-run homer just over the wall in right field that made it 7-0.

Lyles would finish the third inning by getting Rojas to pop out, but he wouldn’t come out for the fourth. His final line: three innings pitched, seven runs on six hits with three walks four strikeouts and three homers allowed.

His record fell to 3-15 on the season, which is the most losses of any pitcher in MLB. The Royals are 3-22 in games started by Lyles this season.

Hernandez actually got a chance for another grand slam an inning later against Lyles’ replacement, Jackson Kowar. The Mariners loaded the bases by working three walks, but Hernandez had to settle for a fielder’s choice that scored a run instead and it made it 8-0.

Seattle would score at least one run in every inning after the third with Rodriguez, Raleigh and Cade Marlowe each adding homers against the Royals bullpen. Hernandez hit his second homer of the game in the eighth inning, crushing a solo shot off position player Matt Duffy, finishing the day with six RBI.

It was more than enough run support for Gilbert.

After failing to make it out of the fifth inning in his previous outing vs. the Royals on Aug. 14, giving up four runs on seven hits, Gilbert was dominant and efficient. He got ahead of hitters and put them away.

“Logan was fantastic,” Servais said.

He pitched seven innings, allowing one run on two hits with a walk and seven strikeouts to improve to 12-5 on the season and lower his overall ERA to 3.66. His only run allowed came in the fifth inning with the Mariners already leading 8-0. Gilbert allowed a leadoff homer to Drew Waters on a 1-1 fastball.

“What lies ahead of us here over the next 30-some-odd games is going to be really exciting,” Servais said. “And I hope our fans jump on board with us. I have a feeling they will. When you’re going good, everybody wants to jump on and it’s been a lot of fun. Our players are feeling it. You go home at night and you can’t wait to get the ballpark the next day. And that’s where you should be at this time of year.”


Ryan Divish:

206-464-2373 or rdivish@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @RyanDivish. Ryan Divish covers the Mariners in Seattle and on the road. Look for his ‘Extra Innings’ podcast and weekly Sunday mailbag during the season.

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